Digital was set to be the new steel

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Digital Region was an ambitious plan to bring superfast broadband to South Yorkshire in the 2000s - years ahead of the rest of the country.

The aim was not just to ensure the region didn’t get left behind - but to leapfrog other areas and make digital the new steel.

Regional development agency Yorkshire Forward - in partnership with South Yorkshire’s four councils - hatched a “visionary solution to a complex and pressing need.”

Too complex it seems.

Yorkshire Forward offered £40m in grants and loans, Europe chipped in with £27m and the authorities lent millions more between them. It was supposed to turn a profit within three years.

Digital Region dug up miles of roads and pavements but by then the big players like BT and Virgin had moved in. A limited marketing budget also held DR back.

In the end it had just 3,000 customers - against a planned 108,000 - and lost £1m-a-month.

The Coalition Government scrapped Yorkshire Forward after it came to power in 2010 and when it saw the liabilities involved in Digital Region it scrapped that too.

Last summer business minister Michael Fallon asked for authorisation to spend £45m buying the Department for Innovation and Skills out of its 50 per cent share so it could wash its hands of the “mess”.

Digital Region desperately tried to find a buyer, rejecting BT in favour of French firm Bouygues Energies and Services. But it came to nothing.

Since September it has been trying to sell the network of cables, but so far without success. It is the end of an expensive dream.